Title: Solo: A Star Wars Story
Describe This Movie Using One Apocalypse Now Quote:
COLONEL LUCAS: You understand, Captain, that this mission does not exist, nor will it ever exist.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Scruffy lookin' nerfherder teams up with walking carpet.
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 2.5 ill-advised attempts to rework the motivation behind a defining character moment out of 5.
Tagline: "Never tell him the odds."
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Escaping the mean streets of Corellia was only the beginning for young Han Solo (Alden Ehrenreich), who dreams of becoming a pilot and returning to reunite with his childhood comrade Qi'ra (Emilia Clarke). Fast forward a few years, where after a failed stint at the Imperial Academy, young Solo has made the acquaintance of a young (a mere 190 years old) Wookiee named Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) and fallen in with outlaw Tobias Beckett's (Woody Harrelson) crew. They're looking to steal a substantial quantity of hyperfuel for Beckett's sinister bosses, but first they're going to need a fast ship...
"Critical" Analysis: Years from now, when we're a dozen more movies into the Star Wars franchise (and assuming Hollywood and the rest of America aren't in smoking, radioactive ruins), perhaps there will be a serious investigation into just what a Phil Lord and Christopher Miller Solo would have looked like.
The Lego Movie and 21/22 Jump Street directors "parted ways" with Lucasfilm with a mere 3-1/2 weeks left of principal photography, reportedly for taking Lawrence Kasdan's script in comedic and improvisational directions unwelcome by producer Kathleen Kennedy. Ron Howard took over, and the result is — like a lot of Howard's output — capably made, if not exactly inspiring.
More or less a Western in space, complete with train robbery, escape from an Imperial "posse," and climactic standoff, Solo: A Star Wars Story wants to benefit from its main characters' legendary status without contributing much to it. Han at one point has "a good feeling about this," for example, while Chewie actually does rip someone's arms out (the better to hammer home the fact that wasn't an apocryphal story).
As with just about every post-OT Star Wars tale, however, too much time is spent connecting narrative dots, stripping most of the characters of their mystique and depriving us of anything unexpected (aside from a surprise cameo at the end that's apparently not complete bullshit only if you watched six seasons of a TV show). The story is depressingly by-the-numbers, even by the hoary standards of the franchise. "Cantina" scene? Check. Saucy robot? Yep. Predicable betrayal? Of course. Hell, "Tobias Beckett" isn't even a Star Wars-style name, further reinforcing the impression nobody put much effort into this.
But this was always going to be a hard sell. Han Solo is a favorite son of the Star Wars universe; a scoundrel made good in the classic mode, he becomes an integral part of the Alliance, rising to the rank of general and falling in love with a princess (who became a general as well). And a huge reason for his popularity is Harrison Ford's iconic portrayal of the character.
To say Alden Ehrenreich never stood a chance isn't entirely fair, but it also isn't inaccurate. He's not a bad actor, but try as he might, he can't capture the casual insouciance and jocular apathy Ford brought to the role. Ehreneich does cocksure well enough, and as the wannabe outlaw who can't help doing the right thing he makes Han's journey from Solo to A New Hope somewhat plausible, but he mostly suffers by inescapable comparison.
It also doesn't help that he's so easily eclipsed. And while Suotamo brings a physicality to Chewbacca that Peter Mayhew was never capable of, and Phoebe Waller-Bridge follows the trail blazed by Alan Tudyk as woke robot L3-37 (the less said about the somnambulant Clarke the better), Donald Glover effortlessly swipes every scene he's in, his fastidiously urbane Lando Calrissian occasionally elevating the material to something that doesn't feel paint-by-numbers.
Quantity versus quality was a dilemma Disney was always going to have to face once they acquired Lucasfilm, and they've been here before (see also the bulk of their animated features post-1994). Unfortunately, in rushing to capitalize on familiar characters (are they really working on a freaking *Boba Fett* movie? Jesus Jones, they are), we're going to end up with more uninspired efforts like this.
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